Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Singapore, a soft landing into Asia

Republic of Singapore
Population: 5.4 Million
Official Language: English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil
Weather: 86 degrees F and muggy all year long
Currency: $1 USD = $1.25 Singaporean dollars
Fun Fact: 85 miles north of the equator

 If Cape Town is the soft landing spot of Africa, then Singapore is the soft landing spot in Asia.  The weather there is predictable 10 months out of the year - always hot and muggy.  In March and October however, it switches to unbearably hot and disgustingly muggy.

I really liked Singapore a lot but probably because of my company.  I was only there for 3 days, but my tour guide, Harrison, filled them up from morning to night.  There was so much to see and the pending Chinese New Year made the city light up (literally) in red and gold.  It was buzzing with excitement, fortune and well wishes all around.

Harrison and Emily

Chinese New Year: Year of the Horse!


Day 1:
Harrison walked my ass off all around town.  We probably walked between 15-20 km.  We started out in Little India for a hawker breakfast (read: affordable local food) at Tekka Center where we ate Dum Briyani with Mutton (Sheep) and Roti Prata (fried flat bread). 

It was so delicious, but super heavy so we pounded the pavement to Sri Veeramakaliamman temple, Bugis Street, Haji Lane, Sultan Mosque, Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands.

Doesn't this look like the genie from Pee Wee's Playhouse?  Meka Leka Hi Meka Hiney Ho!

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay

Emily and Harrison by the Super Trees

I'll crush your head, I'll crush it!
Had to wear a shroud in the Sultan Mosque

Chinese "sham wow" guy!

We were absolutely pooped and decided we needed deserved a cocktail.  So, we headed to the uber touristy Raffles Hotel to get a Singapore Sling at Long Bar.  Apparently, Long Bar is the birthplace of the famous fruity concoction, so we dug deep in our pockets and shelled out $28 per cocktail to do as the rest of the tourists do.  While there, we met a nice man traveling from England who bough us a second round, woot woot! (I wonder if he knew it was going to cost him $60)  He was a turkey farmer in a former life and his wife stayed home to care for their lambs. I ended up giving him a postcard to write to his wife and Harrison stamped and mailed it for him, so really we earned those drinks! Tit for Tat, right?

Singapore Slings at Long Bar at Ruffles Hotel
Free Peanuts to toss on the floor!
For dinner, we headed to China town to check out the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.  We arrived around 7:30 which meant we were too late to see the temple, but right on time to see the service!  I was pooped.  Harrison is an amazing tour guide, but I party pooped out and went to bed around 10.  


Old Man Battle Royale: Checkers!

Hanging creepiness

Dried Duck...

Day 2:
We started the day with a hawker breakfast again.  This time, however, we went to Tiong Bahru for Char Siew Rice, White and Black Carrot Cake, Xiao Long Baos and some amazing pork soup dumplings.  This was the best meal that I had in Singapore.  Everything was amazing, but the pork soup dumplings were out of this world!

I had no idea that the day could get any better than those dumplings, but Harrison pulled out all the stops saving the Haw Par Villa for an after breakfast treat.  The Haw Par Villa is a theme park dedicated to the people of Singapore by the founder of Tiger Balm.  He created this park that is both fascinating and creepy at the same time.  In its hay day, I'm sure this place was spectacular!  I mean, 30 years later, it was still amazing, but had the paint been fresh, the fountains functional and there have been more than 30 other people there, it would have felt exhilarating.

As I mentioned this park was both fascinating and creepy.  There was an entire section dedicated to the 10 Courts of Hell.  It listed offenses that would put you through to Hell.  However, with penance, you could work your way out of Hell after enduring your punishment.  Offenses eligible were hilarious.  There were the expected like murder, adultery and prostitution but you could also be sent to Hell and sawed in half for misuse of books, consumption of pornography, cheating on tests and harming others.  The statues' representations were disgusting, disturbing and hilarious.  They were so detailed that we could only wonder what the sculptors were thinking when they were assigned the job and also while they were assembling and painting it.  One of our favorites was that prostitutes were to be drowned in a filthy pool of blood.  Sorry bitches!

Food Wasters beware….you'll be sawed in half!
Penalty for harming others...
Prostitutes get drown in a filthy pool of blood
 There were hundreds of statues all around that told stories and provided playground-like climbing opportunities.  Harrison and I obviously defamed almost all of them.


Harrison has mad ups!

No ups, but I get style points at least

Singapore has a very famous statue of a fish with a lion head at Merlion Park.  It has the body of a fish to pay homage to Singapore's original fishing village and a Lion to represent Singapore's original name "Singapura" or "Lion City".

Both days, we had some amazing midday treats.  The Singaporeans are genius' in that they have foregone the ice cream cone for delicious multi-colored white bread.  No drips, no spills and it has a cool contrasting texture when you eat it.  I know it sounds gross, but trust me, it was incredible!

Ice Cream on bread
That evening, we got a home cooked meal from MiMi's mom then headed to the tallest bar in Asia, One Altitude.  A $25 cover gets you a skyline view of the city and a single cocktail delivered on the rooftop of this outstanding bar.  Harrison's roommates MiMi and Reslyn joined us and we entered fired up and ready to dance.  The music was outstanding until the live band started.  I love live bands, but this one was not great.  They played every song at half the tempo of the original recording and turned the evening into a snoozfest around 11PM.  

Ready to party!

Reslyn, Emily, MiMi, Harrison

Emily and Harrison

Harrison and Res

Em and Res
View from the top of Altitude Bar
I swear these are not ALL my drinks
One big happy family!

Dancing Queen
Photo Bomb….or was it?
I really had a great time seeing all of the different cultures, the colors, architecture and foods. The best part of my trip was getting to spend time with Harrison and his roommates, MiMi, Reslyn and Kathleen.  They were so fun.  Harrison is an AMAZING tour guide and I highly recommend you reach out to him if you're headed to Singapore.  If you live in Singapore, seek him out or PM me for contact info!

We found the happiest people in Singapore!

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